Microsoft HoloLens January 2015 - 05

Our president and fearless leader Jonathan Rettinger asked me this afternoon if I thought that all of the announcements made today represented the new Microsoft under Satya Nadella, as opposed to the older Microsoft under Steve Ballmer.

“I guess, maybe, but I don’t think that necessarily changed today,” I told him. “That changed when Microsoft started to release its products for Android and iOS devices.” I do think something changed today: Microsoft isn’t boring anymore.

A lot of my colleagues – other journalists in the field – seem to feel the same way. Over on Engadget, for example, one author asked “When did Apple become the boring one?” The article focuses on how Apple used to be a cool company pushing ahead of Google and Microsoft. I won’t get into that argument, but the point is similar to the one I have: Microsoft showed today that it’s not just some blah enterprise, software and cloud company that powers the computers we have to use because some IT guy told us to.

In fact, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella even explicitly said this. “We want to move from people needing Windows to choosing Windows to loving Windows,” Nadella said. One way it’s doing that is by creating an ecosystem that folks are going to want to use.

Microsoft has long offered several platforms, whether it was Windows Mobile, Office or even the first Xbox. But it hasn’t done a great job at connecting all of these devices together. It’s actually done a pretty terrible job of that. It hasn’t ever connected Xbox to Windows to Windows Phone to Office to OneDrive to your tablet and to other devices.

Today, however, it showed that this isn’t only a priority moving forward, that it’s actually happening. And by golly it’s about time. Xbox One will soon stream games to your tablets and PCs over a home Wi-Fi network, your phone and PC will talk to one another more, and Cortana will run on both. Your photos, videos, documents, will be accessible from everything through OneDrive. Everything, connected at last.

It’s a true ecosystem! One that I had asked for only yesterday. It’s a wise move, because it gives folks a reason to really consider using Windows Phone if they have a Windows PC, and maybe to consider a Windows PC if they own an Xbox, instead of a Mac. And maybe to consider OneDrive over Google Drive since, well, it’s all connected now.

If that’s not cool, then maybe this will whet your appetite: on top of all of this, Microsoft is ready to tackle virtual reality with Windows Holographic and its HoloLens, which looks futuristic and nearly impossible. It’s a true way to interact with a virtual world around you through a virtual reality headset. When I first saw the demo, I said: “No way, that thing is going to be connected to a huge computer and it will never launch.”

I was wrong though. HoloLens is ready enough that the press are able to check it out, and Microsoft said it will launch during the Windows 10 timeframe. The future is now.

I’ve long been a fan of Microsoft, but over the past few years, as the iPad took off, as the iPhone grew in popularity, as Google introduced products like Google Now and Android Wear, Microsoft seemed to be sitting on the sidelines. It had Windows, sure, and the Xbox One rules, but it didn’t show the world that it was pushing the boundaries on technology.

Today, that changed. Microsoft fascinates me all over again, and I can’t wait to see it finally put all of its pieces together into one amazing puzzle.